Living the DUFF Life

If I were a person that believed in guilty pleasures I’d likely list my insane excitement for the release of ‘The D.U.F.F.” in that category, but likely for me, I don’t so I have no shame in admitting how anxious I am for Saturday afternoon to get here so I can drag my mom to a showing with me. When I first heard about it part of me was like, “I should probably be really offended at the existence of this” because well frankly it’s a little offensive. To keep alive ideas like The D.U.F.F. and in a sense promote that type of stereotyping and judgement is not cool, but there is a after-school-like-life-lesson to be taken away from it all. So between that and my decades old crush on Mae Whitman I am plopping down on the bandwagon for this one. Turns out the movie is based on of a young adult book by the same name written by Kody Keplinger that came out in 2011, which means naturally I sought out the book to read before.

And I loved it. I can tell from the trailer the movie is going to deviate a bit and I already know it’s gonna upset me but I can also sense they will make it work in a way that gets across the same message so it will work out.

But let’s cut to the chase; I was attracted to the topic because I was/am the D.U.F.F.

And I say not looking for pity or compliments, I say it because it’s true and I am not uncomfortable accepting it. Just like I am not uncomfortable with the word fat and that it applies to me. I don’t consider either to hurtful or shameful, though people who use them in negative ways mean for them to be. But in the sense that groups of friends supposedly have a member that is not guy or chick magnet, the one that usually gets put in a “I see you as a friend” category (not to be called with the “friendzone” because that shit doesn’t exist, it’s a whiny excuse for people who feel they are denied a right owed to them to date someone because they are “nice”. No, just no. That shit is not cute), I am most assuredly the D.U.F.F.

I can’t recall a time in my life I was actively pursued or had any sort of suitors looking to call upon me, which in high school, and somewhat in college, sucked hard-core at times. You can say to everyone, and yourself, how it doesn’t matter and doesn’t bother you as many times as you want, but there is still a smart part of you that craves that connection and sense of being desired. You can’t let it consume you and take you down, which I never did. I live in that belief that things happen and find you when the time is right so I am not going to dwell on the fact that love hasn’t found me yet. It’s pointless and a waste of time.

But regardless I identify with the main character Bianca and the thoughts she has throughout the book. Keplinger gave her a voice that I could easily hear running through my own head, which brought the ease of relating to the material that much quicker to me. Lines like, “For a girl with such a fat ass, I felt pretty invisible.” hit me in the gut with empathy because yeah, I get that. Or that the basic principle that The Duff lives in the dynamic of a “frumpy” individual friends with “goddesses”, because while I wouldn’t consider myself frumpy per-say, my friends are stunning. So when Bianca would go on and on about her friends long list of great features and then describe herself in a lesser light, it is something I nodded along with easily.

And what I really liked in the book, that appears to be altered in the movie, is that her school didn’t seem really focused or dependent on these stereotypes. Duff wasn’t a word used in the halls and friendships didn’t seem to be based in the “popular kids with popular kids, nerds with nerds, jocks with jocks” mentality, which is something similar to my high school. We had…maybe you could call them cliques but really they were just large groups of people who were close friends and then all of us as a whole mostly getting along and acknowledged each other. So it was easy to feel like Bianca’s school and the world I grew up in were similar and more reflective of real life than some of the representations showcased in the media in the past.

I feel lucky to have grown up in a pretty accepting dynamic, and also to have had a decent grip on who I was as a person from an early point in life. I can’t tell if having a word like The Duff around while I was growing up would have hurt me or been a sort of anchor for me in terms of identifying with it. Given the people I grew up with I think the latter because like Bianca learns at the end of the book everyone is a Duff in their own ways. All people have negative thoughts or things about them they don’t love whether they admit it not and so it isn’t about singling people out but bonding over the term and that we all feel that way sometimes. Mean Girls has a perfect example in the scene where the girls go over to Regina’s house for the first time and the first thing Regina, Gretchen, and Karen do is go to the mirror and openly talk about what they dislike about themselves and Cady watches these girls, who are worshiped almost, pick themselves apart. By the end they all sort of come together in accepting their imperfections and quirks instead of bonding over the negatives and it’s the same for the characters in The D.U.F.F. and most of us as we grow up and become more adult.

Calling Vikki a slut or a whore was just like calling someone the Duff. It was insulting and hurtful, and it was one of those titles that just feed off an inner fear every girl must have from time to time. Slut, bitch, prude, tease, ditz. They were all the same. Every girl felt like one of these sexist labels described her at some point. So, maybe, every girl felt like the Duff, too?”

That’s the long and short of it all really, and why I can’t wait to see this book brought to life as a movie and for me to throw my money at it. I mean yeah, it’s a little silly and been done more than a few times but at least there is a solid message in there to walk away with and it’s something most people can relate to on some level. And bonus that it might actually be a positive influence on young girls who feel like the Duff and need to find someone or something to identify with, while also preaching acceptance and love both in yourself and in others. A guilty pleasure for sure but one of the best kind.

Which is why when I say I live the DUFF life I admit to being the at times designated ugly, fat friend but I also embrace that I know everyone feels like the Duff from time to time and therefore it isn’t all that bad.

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